Sunday, July 13, 2014

Be Visible. Stay Visible - The Business Success Mantra

A good marketing strategy for SMEs.
In 2007, Sachin and Binny Bansal started Flipkart with an investment of just four lakh Indian Rupees. Today, Flipkart has grown into a $100 million+-revenue online retail giant. It does sound like a fairytale alright, but there’s a lot more effort to it than meets the eye. Flipkart has worked on delivery, then innovation and then visibility with a passion. Today, Flipkart has earned the trust of millions as it has lived up to its promise on delivery. Innovating and selling electronics online in the face of an audience that did not trust electronic buying online and sticking to it shows Flipkart’s guts. And one of the top 10 rated websites with an incredible SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy and execution has pushed it to the top list of being the most visible eretail giants in India’s e commerce story.
Had the Bansals just pushed the delivery bit without building visibility, they would have remained what they were on Day 1 = invisible and unknown.
The Bansals and many successful businessmen like them had three things – that are critical to any business: vision, visibility and guts. In the scheme of things, one follows the other.
We all know what Vision is. Let’s now talk about visibility, the hitherto lesser-known factor and its importance in the success of a brand.
What is Visibility of a Brand?
Visibility is the ability of a product and service to be noticed, seen consistently (by its Target Audience) and later to be recognized.
Visibility does not just happen. It has to be planned and worked on. Simply because in the business of brands, visibility plays a key role.
If you are not visible, you may as well be dead. No two ways about it.
We all know that in this universe there are billions of brands in the same space, vying for a share of the consumer’s mind. Take any product or service – cars, refrigerators, books, TVs, food, beauty services, lawyer service, you name it and some millions of competitors appear. Try Googling the name of any product or service and you will see what we mean. Imagine the stakes if you, a lone brand has to stand out among these billions!
Being visible is hard work. Staying top of mind is Herculean.
But if you don’t do it, someone else will and you will be eating humble pie sooner than you blink your eyes.
Just having a great product or service is not enough.
In many softer cultures of the world, there is an accepted behavioral norm that says if you quietly go about doing good work, it will fetch results. We have no objection to the good work but the ‘quietly’ part definitely worries us. No one will notice you if you do great things, quietly. You must talk. The opposite of Walk the Talk is every bit true in the world of brands. Talk the Walk.
Talk the Walk and how
There are many ways of being visible and fortunately not all of them will burn a hole in your pocket.
  1. Use Social Media to its fullest: You all probably are present on Social Media – Linked IN, Facebook YouTube and Twitter at the very least – use it fully and post on these platforms regularly about the good work you have done. Keep adding to your network once you log on. If you do this even once a week, you will expand your network and let them know what you are doing. The good word always spreads and with great returns too. If you are Social Media shy or think it is no good, let me assure you that you are sadly mistaken and are losing out on the huge benefits it offers for visibility.
  1. Use status messages to speak about your brand: Example, put a short testimonial or an award that you won, on your What’s App status or your email status. This way you get seen without actively promoting.
  1. Always be open to speak in public: Many of you are part of Clubs like the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Sports Club and even industry circles like the Doctors’ Club or others – Always make it point to use every opportunity to update the members about your activity.
  1. Leverage your database: Make it a point to send newsletters or emailers at least once a quarter to your database to update them about the happenings in your company and industry. It pays off. People always skim through the pages even if they don’t read it in detail.
  1. Take time to build a good website and add a blog link to it: Blogs are a great way to update your website content. You don’t have to be a top writer to write blogs – in fact, blogs written from the heart with a personal touch work better, especially when you share your unique experiences with the audience.
  1. Make a point to display your brand wherever you can, on T-shirts for example: Office wear, coasters, office walls are a good and affordable way of displaying your brand. Use them. On T-shirts and office sacks, play up your brand – the entire team will wear it and the world will see it.
  1. Invest in being visible: Assign an annual budget to your brand visibility, however modest. It will inculcate a discipline in you and your team and contribute to your brand’s visibility.
  1. The right tone matters: Just being visible is not the way forward. Being visible in the right way and showcasing a consistent image is important. Be particular that everywhere your brand shows it shows up in a consistent way. For example, if your brand needs to be seen as professional and formal, you cannot have your team showing up for a customer meeting in chappals or floaters or tees, no matter what the time or the day. Some companies end up being present everywhere, sponsor anything and everything – they are visible and noticed but probably for all the wrong reasons – best avoided.
The above is just a snapshot of the tremendous opportunities you have, to be talking about your brand. If you look around with open eyes, you will a flood of opportunities – both free and paid.
Strict No-Nos of Visibility
  1. Don’t over expose. Don’t be all over the place. At every show, every newspaper, magazine, every social media platform, every whatever. Overexposure is bad for the brand’s health. Practice restraint.
  2. Don’t be where everyone is just because it works for them. Check whether that place/platform works for your brand. Sometime being in a place where competition is not, works better for your brand visibility.
  3. Don’t overspend. Just spending huge amounts of money does not guarantee visibility.Spending optimally for the right kind of visibility should be your objective.
  4. Don’t be overly visible if you cannot deliver: Splashing on big ads in the newspapers and magazines, without having a distribution network ready is a recipe for a backlash from your consumers. Stay away from this. Invest in visibility only when you have a strong back end and front end that delivers on your brand promise.
Visibility is like a chain reaction. Keep working on it.
Just spread the good word about your brand, one person at a time. Get feedback from your customer when he visits, ask for referrals, do everything to spark a good chain reaction. There’s nothing like Word of Mouth for visibility. There’s nothing like consistent Word of Mouth for visibility.
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